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Why negotiating your salary could leave you at a loss

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We all know that women in the UK get paid less than men.

In fact, the gender pay gap currently stands at 19.2 per cent. This means that women, on average, get paid 80p for every £1 earned by men.

So when it comes to negotiating our salary for a role, are we doing ourselves (and the female workforce in general) a disservice if we don't negotiate?

We're encouraged to 'lean in' to know our worth and fight for it, but a new study suggests that while often it pays to negotiate your wage, women who don't may have a good reason for doing so.

In fact, the survey found that asking for more as a default can actually harm your potential earnings.

The study by Harvard Business Review had two test groups, which included both genders. 

One group was allowed to choose whether to negotiate for a higher wage following an offer and the other was forced to negotiate. The negotiations between 'worker' and 'firm' took place over a chat platform to ensure the workers' genders were anonymous.

The findings showed that women are 11% less likely to avoid negotiations of a higher wage than men if they had the choice, even though it almost always worked in the candidates' favour to negotiate. 

However, it's clear choices to negotiate were carefully considered ones - the female candidates knew their worth and were unlikely to accept a wage below that.

Career ladder

When given the choice, the female 'workers' negotiated 88 per cent of the time if offered a wage that didn't match their skill set and experience. Though they only negotiated 49 per cent of the time when an initial offer equaled or exceeded their market value. 

When there was no increase from the initial offer though, it was down to women refusing to negotiate 34 per cent of the time.

So did they make the right decision when they chose not to lean in? According to the results from the forced negotiation test: yes.

"When women were forced to negotiate every time, women’s overall wages actually decreased," the publication concludes. 

"Final wages exceeded the initial wage offer at exactly the same rate as when they had a choice to avoid negotiations – 49% of the time — but the rate by which final wages fell short of the initial wage offer increased from 9 to 33 per cent."

So, the 34 per cent weren't acquiescing to a wage they didn't feel was adequate, but pointedly - it seems like they had an intuition that the offer was the right one in order to avoid financial loss. A skill the study shows was not echoed by the male candidates.

Sometimes it pays to lean out.

Knowing when to ask for more and following your instincts is an important factor in securing the right wage.

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